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Pentagon chief Austin urges Israel to protect Palestinians

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant participate in a meeting at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, U.S. March 26, 2024. (EPA Photo)

Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin told his Israeli counterpart Yoav Gallant that the protection of Palestinian civilians was a moral and strategic imperative, as he called the situation in the Gaza Strip a “humanitarian catastrophe” during their meeting on Tuesday.

“In Gaza today, the number of civilian casualties is far too high and the amount of humanitarian aid is far too low,” Austin said at the start of the meeting with Israel Defense Minister Yoav Gallant at the Pentagon.

“Gaza is suffering a humanitarian catastrophe,” Austin added.

The meeting between the two came after Netanyahu on Monday canceled a separate visit to Washington by two of his most senior aides who were due to hear U.S. ideas about operational alternatives.

Netanyahu’s fraught relations with U.S. President Joe Biden broke down over Washington’s decision not to veto a U.N. Security Council resolution seeking an immediate cease-fire in Gaza.

Netanyahu on Tuesday vowed to press ahead with Israel’s offensive and blasted the U.N. Security Council resolution.

Israel’s ruthless attacks have left much of the Gaza Strip in ruins, displaced most of its residents, and driven a third of its population of 2.3 million to the brink of famine. Over 32,000 Palestinians were killed in Israel’s attacks, mostly women and children.

By Reuters

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